After An had carried off heaven, after Enlil had carried off earth, after Ereshkigal had been carried off into the nether world as its prize...
Although translations say that Ereshkigal was carried away by the Kur, the Kur is never only a river, or only a force of nature.
The Kur is sometimes defined by Kramer as the empty space between the earth's crust and the primeval sea. A potential, an animate, a full-nothingness.
I am reminded of the dragon-paths in geomancy, the lung-Mei and to the way some ground feels heavy, and the way dowsing rods move..
But more often, the Kur is a monster.
The enemy from beyond the mountains...
From Samuel Noah Kramer there is this translation from Sumerian about the begins of the world:
"My brother, after in days of yore the fates had been decreed, after abundance had sated the land, after An had carried off heaven, after Enlil had carried off earth, after Ereshkigal had been carried off into the nether world as its prize -- after he had set sail, after he had set sail, after the father had set sail for the nether world, against the king, the small were hurled, against Enki, the large were hurled, its small stones of the hand, its large stones of the dancing reeds, the keel of Enki's boat, overwhelm in battle like an attacking storm, against the king, the water at the head of the boat, devours like a wolf, against Enki, the water at the rear of the boat, strikes down like a lion. Reference.
The Kur seems to be a river...
A serpentine, powerful
Perhaps it doesn't seem appropriate to mix Greek mythology with similar themes found in Sumerian/Akkadian stories?
But people traded, fought and talked to each other...
Stories do not respect boundaries.
In Greek mythology the serpent is an uncanny creature.
It is legless, it lives in holes under the ground and it sheds its skin.
The snake rejuvenates itself.
And there is the serpentine spinal cord...
In all of us.
The white snake of folk tales?
Snakes appear to just grow from the soil....
Snakes creeping out from around tombs to feed on food left for the dead.
Apollo and Enki both have cult-sites that are places of oracle. Apollo's oracle was Delphi; in poetry known as 'Pytho'. Its priestess was 'The Pythia'.
The connection between Enki and the house of prophesy is at the end of these lines:
In the Homeric hymn to Apollo "Who comes from afar" Gaia/Earth or Themis/correctness -in a religious sense- owned the site where the Delphic oracle was to be.
The pure house be built, he adorned it with lapis lazuli,
He ornamented it greatly with gold,
In Eridu he built the house of the water-bank,
Its brickwork, word-uttering, advice-giving,
Its... like an ox roaring,
The house of Enki, the oracles uttering.
Anyone wishing to consult the priestess would first of all come to the sacred Castalian Spring which wells up in a ravine in the Phaedriades mountains. All pilgrims ritually bathed here before entering the sacred precinct. Murderers had to bathe their entire body, while everyone else only had to wash their hair. It once supplied two fountains; both now destroyed.
When Apollo came to claim the site of Delphi, he found it guarded by a huge snake.
Apollo kills the she-serpent by shooting arrows into her body.
As her massive body decays under the sun she becomes Pythesthai, which means 'rotted'.
Strabo (64 BC-25 AD) wrote:
They say that the seat of the oracle is a cavern hollowed deep down in the earth, with a rather narrow mouth, from which rises a vapor that produces divine possession. A tripod is set above this cleft, mounting which, the Pythia inhales the vapor and prophesies.Ethylene and methane are known to rise from geological fault lines beneath Delphi, which would account for the smell. But there is another connection, bitumen and sulphur..the uncanny blue flame and the hidden fire, which leads us back to the 'Lord of the Great City'.
The connections between Apollo and Enki are the sacred wells, prophesy (wisdom) and finally the serpent.
It would be so much simpler if the Kur was the Absu.
But the Absu is 'far water' and his mate is Tiamat (salt sea-mother of us all).
The Kur has so many watery connections!
The Enuma Elish begins:There is a story in which the warrior, Ninurta is persuaded by his personal weapon, Sharur, to go off and kill The Kur.
When above the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, the first, the begetter, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, she who bore them all; they were still mixing their waters, and no pasture land had yet been formed, nor even a reed marsh...
Ninurta succeeds and so finds out that The Kur controls the primordial water.
When The Kur has been killed, salt water floods the land and sweet water fails to irrigate the land...the solution to this problem is to build a dam over the corpse of The Kur.
Another story tells of Inana deciding to kill the Kur.
But now the Kur seems to be a volcano:
"Against the standing place of the gods it has directed its terror, In the sitting place of the Anunnaki it has led forth fearfulness, Its dreadful fear it has hurled upon the land,The 'mountain,' its dreadful rays of fire it has directed against all the lands."There is a similarity here between the stories of Apollo and the Python/ Enki and the river journey.
Yet the Kur is much more.
It is an animate force within the water and the stone, as if the Python represents older, autocthonic forces. Something that gives life to itself, out of earth.
The kur is a force found in water, fire and stone, and it is as if the Kur is able to possess non-animate objects, a kind of poltergeist, almost..
The Kur is an older and very different form of order, an ancient and strange, form of life...something beyond us, unrecognisable.